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Recruitment in the South East has tended to focus on specialist areas. Much of the external recruitment in the region in the last three years has been at senior level - attracting highly qualified lawyers with the aim of developing niche markets. This has largely proved successful.
Areas in demand include personal injury, medical negligence, childcare and local authority work, financial services and corporate/commercial. The most encouraging sign from all counties is the increase in property instructions - investment and development work is returning and the domestic conveyancing market is holding its own.
Recruitment at assistant level has been steady, but has been driven by the need for replacement rather than expansion.
Firms have an excellent retention rate for their newly qualifieds and there has been less movement to the City at this level. The use of contract staff reflects the reluctance on the part of many firms to recruit additional permanent staff.
Firms to the North and West of London have been kept busy on the commercial side, while to the South and East the commercial litigation practices have been busier. This may reach a plateau now as ADR come to the fore, but legally aided work continues to boom.
There has been little pressure to increase salaries. In most cases remuneration is performance-based and billings/salary ratios are carefully monitored.
Average salaries in the region range from u16,000-u19,000 for a newly qualified lawyer to u25,000-u30,000 for a four-year qualified lawyer.
In terms of active recruitment we have seen an increase of 19 per cent in vacancies for solicitors registered in 1994 compared with 1993. Several locum workers have had their contracts extended or been made permanent members of staff.
Alison Smith is manager of the legal division at Badenoch & Clark.